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  1. My Hopes for IBC this Year

    August 28, 2014 by Steve Modica

    I’m heading out to IBC and there are a number of things I hope to see there. Of course, I’ve got customers asking me about SSDs, and engineers working on 40Gb Ethernet and people want to bring it all together. Really, what’s the hold up here?

    My short wish list:

    • 3.5” Server Chassis (8, 16, 24) with 12Gb SAS expanders onboard
    • 2.5” Server Chassis (12 and 24) with 12Gb SAS expanders onboard
    • Balanced 40Gb switches that can legitimately aggregate 16 or 24 10Gb ports into 4 or 6 40Gb ports
    • 4TB or larger SSDs that can handle enterprise workloads but cost less than $1000 per Terabyte
    • Thunderbolt 3 previews
    • 40Gb Ethernet Adapters
    • 8 or 10Terabyte 7200RPM SAS drives
    • New Wi-Fi technology that can run full duplex and offer backpressure and bandwidth reservation (can you imagine editing wirelessly?)

    Obviously, I have a few of these technologies in hand already, but there are some major roadblocks to building a balanced server with them. SSDs are very expensive and still too small. We’ll need those 400MB/sec devices to justify putting 40Gb ports in a server.

    Shifting gears, in September, we are going to be running a special at Small Tree. If you purchase a TitaniumZ (8 or 16), we’re giving away two SANLink2 10Gb Ethernet Adapters. Using the two onboard 10Gb ports on the Titanium, you can immediately connect two clients and be editing over 10Gb.

    Contact Small Tree today to purchase your TitaniumZ system with two Promise SANLink2 10Gb Ethernet Adapters included – salesteam@small-tree.com or 866-782-4622. Purchase must be completed by 9/30/14.


  2. Small Tree Provides End-to-End Workflow Solution for Advertising Agency

    August 20, 2014 by Joe DiBenedetto

    TitaniumZ Solution Streamlines Digital Media Workflow

    SnitilyCarr- FinishSuite-8.15.14_035

    Lincoln, Neb., Aug. 20, 2014 Snitily Carr, a full-service advertising agency with roots in video production, needed to expand its capability to meet the growing needs of the agency’s clients. New tactics and technology provided more opportunities to serve clients, and the company now needed a digital media workflow strategy to match.

    To meet those challenges, the medium-sized agency called upon Small Tree to provide an end-to-end shared storage and networking environment that also included media asset management through axle Video, and LTO tape-based archival through Cache-A.

    “This is our first Small Tree box,” said Rhett McClure, Video Producer for Snitily Carr. “It’s great bang for the buck. So much so, that for the amount of storage we needed and the money we saved working with Small Tree, we were able to include media asset management as well as archival tape backup in the budget. The cost of the turnkey system from Small Tree was what others were quoting us for storage alone.”

    Snitily Carr provides traditional and digital marketing and production services for customers in a variety of vertical markets including healthcare, agriculture, financial services and retail.

    “Small Tree has been very easy to work with,” said McClure. “We’ve been plotting this whole transition for about 18 months and considered 10 or 12 different options over that time, as we tweaked what parts would fit where, and just how much storage and networking infrastructure made sense.”

    The agency now has a combination of both 10GbE and GbE workstations running Adobe Creative Suite accessing the TitaniumZ-8 storage server, including both iMacs via Thunderbolt to 10GbE, and a DaVinci Resolve color grading suite via 10GbE and PCIe.

    Media asset management and transcoding duties are handled by axle Video’s Gear appliance, which offers a radically simple media management solution at low cost.  Gear combines two rack mounted Mac minis in a tightly-coupled configuration with axle and Telestream software to create an optimized media management and transcode appliance in 1U of rack space.  The axle Gear system gives wider access to the contents of the TitaniumZ from laptops and iPads anywhere in the Snitily Carr organization, by creating searchable low-res proxies of all media files on the storage.  Axle Gear also provides a searchable browser interface with custom metadata, timeline-based selects and review and approval workflows.

    Completing the “ingest to export” workflow solution, Small Tree partnered with Serial Scene, a Chicago-based Cache-A authorized systems integrator, to handle the archival portion using a Pro-Cache6 LTO tape drive appliance.

    With the TitaniumZ’s  ability to support a variety of content creation software, its flexible mix of both GbE and 10GbE configuration options as well as future-proofed expansion possibilities,  TitaniumZ is designed and tested to handle real-world content creation tasks not just today, but into the future as well.

    “It’s really about serving our clients in a better way. Small Tree has made our creation process a lot easier,” said McClure, and “We can throw pretty much anything at it and it doesn’t complain.”

    For more information about Small Tree and its growing line of shared storage and networking products, visit www.small-tree.com. Follow Small Tree on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SmallTreeComm or on Twitter @SmallTreeComm.


  3. Data choke points and a cautionary tale

    August 14, 2014 by Steve Modica

    During a normal week, I help a lot of customers with performance issues. Some of the most common complaints I hear include:

    “I bought a new 10Gb card so I could connect my Macs together, but when I drag files over, it doesn’t go any faster.”

    “I upgraded the memory in my system because Final Cut was running slow, but it didn’t seem to help very much.”

    “I bought a faster Mac so it would run my NLE more smoothly, but it actually seems worse than before.”

    All of these things have something in common.  Money was spent on performance, the users didn’t have a satisfying experience, and they would be much happier had the money been spent in the right place.

    Of course, the first one is easy.  Putting a 10Gb connection between two Macs and dragging files between them isn’t going to go any faster than the slowest disk involved. If one of those Macs is using an old SATA spinning disk, 40-60MB/sec would be a pretty normal transfer rate.  A far cry from the 1000MB/sec you might expect from 10Gb Ethernet!  Who wouldn’t be disappointed?

    Similarly, the second case where a user upgrades memory based on an anecdotal suggestion of a friend is all too common.  On the one hand, memory upgrades are typically a great way to go, especially when you run a lot of things simultaneously. More memory almost always means better performance.  However, this is assuming that you didn’t have some other serious problem that was overwhelming your lack of memory.

    In the case of Final Cut 7, which is a 32 bit application, more memory isn’t going to help Final Cut directly.  In fact, it’s much more likely that Final Cut would run better with a faster disk and perhaps a faster CPU.  Since FCP 7 didn’t use GPU offload, even moving to a better graphics card might not have delivered a huge gain.

    The last one, where buying a faster Mac actually made things worse, is a classic case of mismatched performance tuning.  For this customer, the faster Mac also had a lot more memory.  It turns out that Mac OS X will dynamically increase the amount of data it will move across the network in a burst (the TCP Receive Window).  This resulted in the network overrunning Final Cut, causing it to stutter.  The solution?  Dial back the receive window to make sure FCP 7 can keep up.  This will be corrected by some other changes in the stack that are coming soon.  One day, slower applications will be able to push back on the sender a little more directly and a little more effectively than today.

    These cases bring to mind a discussion I had with a 40Gb Ethernet vendor back at NAB in April. They wanted me to use their cards and perhaps their switches. The obvious question:  Don’t your users want the speed of 40Gb Ethernet? Wouldn’t they want to run this right to their desktops?!

    Of course they would.  Everyone wants to go fast.  The problem is that those 40Gb ports are being fed by storage. If you look closely at what raid controllers and spinning disks can do, the best you can hope for from 16 drives and a raid card is around 1GB/sec.  A 40Gb cards moves about 4GB/sec. So if I sold my customers 40Gb straight to their desktops, I would need somewhere around 64 spinning disks just to max out ONE 40Gb port.  It could be done, but not economically. It would be more like a science project.

    Even worse, on Macs today, those 40Gb ports would have to connect with Thunderbolt 2, which tops out around 2.5GB/sec and is yet another choke point that would lead to disappointed customers and wasted money.

    I think 40Gb Ethernet has a place. In fact, we’re working on drivers today. However, that place will depend on much larger SSDs that can provide 1GB/sec per device.  Once we’re moving 8 and 16GB/sec either via a RAID card or ZFS logical volumes, then it will make sense to put 40Gb everywhere.  The added advantage is that waiting to deploy 40Gb will only lead to better and more stable 40Gb equipment. Anyone remember the old days of 10Gb back in 2003 when cards were expensive, super hot, and required single mode fiber?